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Andy Williams may have been singing about Christmas when he crooned It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, but for me, hands down, autumn is the hap-happiest season of all! Back in the day when I was a big-haired, cowboy boot wearing, Texas girl, I used to call this season… “sweater weather”. Back then, I lived for the cooler weekends when I could throw on a pair of well worn jeans, a cozy jumper {sweater} and head off to some grassy field an hour or so outside of Dallas for a bit of antique shopping.

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Now, my life is so different. I’m a wife and mother. We split our time between Ireland and America. And our home is fully furnished {finally!}. I still live for the weekends, but now I’m much more likely to get out for a hike, throw myself on the sofa and relax with a stash of newspapers and magazines or get creative in the kitchen whipping up recipes…{truth be told, a spot of retail therapy in Dundrum also makes the list!}

This past Bank Holiday Monday was a perfect day for being in the kitchen. Among other autumn treats, I made Pumpkin Maple Granola, which I double batched because it disappears so quickly. The base recipe is Nadia’s Granola. We love this incredibly more-ish treat but, let’s be honest, it’s nice to change things up every now and again. With that and sweater weather in mind, I created this simple, delicious, Pumpkin Pecan Maple Granola. It takes only 40 minutes to mix and bake and has 11 ingredients: pumpkin pureé, mixed spice, pecans and cranberries…oh my!  And, the smell will drive you around the bend: it’s like a yummy pumpkin spice candle.

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If you prefer to substitute currants or raisins for the cranberries…go for it. Ditto if you want to use a different type of nut…or not nuts at all. This granola doesn’t have any of that over-the-top sugariness that you’ll find in store bought granola. We enjoy it in a multitude of ways: over Weetabix, Special K, yogurt, fresh fruit, ice cream, or by the handful.

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I know the last few days have been cold in Ireland, but I hope you are making time for yourself and your friends/loved ones outdoors in our beautiful countryside. With Halloween less than 24 hours away, be safe, enjoy the candy, carved pumpkins, costumes and bonfires…autumn is truly a magical season.

~ XoK

Pumpkin Pecan Maple Granola

Makes 5 cups/600 grams

Ingredients

50 ml/2oz/¼ cup maple syrup

28g/1oz/¼ cup brown sugar

50 ml/2oz/¼ cup olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon mixed spice {pumpkin spice}

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

76g/2.7oz/1/3 cup pumpkin pureé

340g/12oz/3 cups rolled oats

118g/4.2oz/1 cup raw pecans, roughly chopped into pieces

130g/4.6oz/1 cup raw pumpkin seeds

50g/1.8 oz/1/3 cup cranberries

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 150°C/300°F.

2. Mix first 7 ingredients in a large bowl.

3. Add oats and mix to coat.

4. Spread mixture out on a large, rimmed, baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes.

5. Add the pecans and pumpkin seeds and bake for another 15 minutes. Continue to stir every 5 minutes.

6. Remove the hot muesli from the oven and allow to cool completely before adding cranberries. Store in a sealed container to keep fresh.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* If you live in Ireland, you can buy Pumpkin pureé year round at Fallon & Byrne.

** Oats are said to reduce harmful LDL cholesterol. To learn more, check-out this article from Mayo Clinic online.

*** Getting outdoors is incredibly healthy for the body, the spirit and the mind. If you’re in Ireland, or visiting soon, check out these articles and websites for places to hike in Ireland. My personal favorites are Glendalough, Killiney Hill, Big Sugarloaf, Bray Head, The Gap of Dunloe, The Giant’s Causeway and the Howth Cliff Walk.

Since coming back from our holidays in August, I have been very intentional about how we live. Though we are typically pretty good, our lives had recently started to feel chaotic again. Simple, healthy, clean, honest, and wholesome is what I wanted us to move back towards and, as the mammy of the house, it was up to me to lead the charge.

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I gently turned myself and my family {even the daughter who is miles away} towards getting more exercise, spending time in quiet contemplation, volunteering, and eating better. It took a little convincing of the two kids at the start of our move back to healthier living, but once they saw the tangible results {more sound sleep, better fitness, a few pounds shed, and less stress felt} everyone was in. Best of all…it only took six weeks before we were seeing and feeling the benefits and that, for me, felt like a small victory!

So, now, with the days growing shorter and the weather getting cooler, it is a touch harder to stay the course in terms of how we eat. And, let’s be honest, if you’re not eating properly, it’s much harder to do anything else well. I’m sure, like yourselves, we are craving foods that are hearty and warm, especially in the morning, which is why I really do love this Cinnamon Apple Porridge recipe. It is an autumn-inspired take on traditional Irish porridge.

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With the addition of three simple ingredients, apples, cinnamon and toasted pumpkin seeds, it’s easy to make a vegan, gluten-free, hot and delicious breakfast in no time at all. In fact, I often make a big batch and either refrigerate or freeze the leftovers {in single servings} to have for the entire week which saves me time and energy…another small victory!

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What toppings are you putting on your porridge in the morning? Do share, I’m always looking for new ideas. In the meantime, here are a few more apple recipes to try, if  you’re on an apple kick like me.

Cinnamon Apple Porridge

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 cup/7oz steel cut (or pinhead) oats

4 cups/2 pints water, though you can use milk if you prefer

Directions

1. The night before you want porridge, bring the water to a rapid boil.

2. Slowly add the pinhead oats, mixing all the time, and bring the water back to the boil.

3. Turn off heat, cover and leave to set overnight.

4. Next morning, add more water (or milk), stir and reheat.

5. While the porridge is heating, core an apple and chop the apple slices into bite size pieces. Set aside.

6. Toast a handful of pumpkin seeds in a dry pan over medium heat on the hob {stove}.

7. Once the porridge is ready, spook into bowls, top with apple pieces, pumpkin seeds, and a sprinkle of cinnamon, and serve immediately. {Maple syrup is a nice addition too}.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* If you prefer stewed apples, you could always add the apples {skin and all} to the pinhead oats and cook until the mixture is creamy and the apples are so tender that they almost disappear…but that’s up to you. For the moment, I prefer my apples crisp and tart, which is why I add them uncooked. You could also add the cinnamon from the very beginning, if you prefer.

** Every wondered if cinnamon is safe or good for you? Read this Time Magazine online article to get the scoop.

*** We’ve been growing Irish apples in our back garden for years, but that pales in comparison to the fact that apples have been grown in Ireland for some 3,000 years! To learn more about Irish apple varieties and even buy some to grow yourself, visit Futureforests.ie

 

 

 

 

https://cookieandkate.com/apple-steel-cut-oatmeal-recipe/

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It’s been ages since I last posted and a lot has happened in that time. My eldest child, who left for the west coast of America last year to go to university, changed her mind and transferred colleges. My youngest has hit her teen-years like a lioness on the hunt: I’ve been hanging onto her by the tail ever since. My sweet husband continues to do his thing. And I, for my sins, have gotten involved in a side hustle {that’s American speak for side business} that has me up to my eyeballs.

But it’s all good. The new school year has started. Everyone and everything is humming along nicely and I still have my home life in sight…though not always like it used to be. On days like today, when I’ve been working, I’m thankful for the many family-tested-and-approved {the latter being the most important!} recipes I have to hand. These are the ones, like tonight’s supper of lazy roast chicken and pan seared mushrooms, that are super easy to make and absolutely delicious.

Pan seared mushrooms remind me of my mother-in-law. She loved them. Like boiled potatoes, pan seared Brussels Sprouts in soy-sauce glaze, and boiled ham, they were a regular feature at her dining table. Now, they are at mine. I wonder, someday, will they be at my daughters’ table?

Food memories are strong. They’re not just about the dish…they’re about the food and the people and the place and the occasions around them. They can whisk us back to our childhood…or to take us back to a few lovely moments gathered round the table of a woman you whole heartedly admired.

But I digress…these lovely pan seared mushrooms smell amazing. They are good enough to serve at a dinner party. You might even make them as an appetizer for a cocktail get together, with a side of crusty bread to sop up the buttery juices. They would also be perfect on top of a perfectly seared steak, served along a juicy chicken breast, nestled into an omelet or popped into a sandwich bap.

~XoK

Pan Seared Mushrooms

Serves 4

Ingredients

3 tablespoons butter

12 ounces button mushrooms

fresh ground pepper/sea salt to taste

Directions

1. Rinse, dry, and chop mushrooms.

2. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until butter begins to bubble.

3. Add mushrooms to the skillet in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until bottom side is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Toss mushrooms, and continue to cook, reducing heat as needed to avoid scorching, until golden brown all over, about 3-5 minutes more.

4. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and give the mushrooms a good stir.

5. Remove the mushrooms from the skillet with a slotted spoon and serve immediately.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* Storing mushrooms in the fridge is easy…do nothing to them. I repeat…do nothing to them. Simply remove them from your carry bag and pop them into the fridge. If they come in a shrink wrap package, do not open the plastic…I know…strange for me to say so given how much I detest plastic. But, truly, leave them alone and they will last a week.

** Wash or brush clean? I’ve always rinsed and quickly dried any mushrooms I’ve ever used and done so without problem. To be honest, I couldn’t be bothered brushing each one or peeling each one either. Yes, some people peel their mushrooms!

*** To stem or not to stem? If the mushrooms you purchased have woody stems, discard them just prior to use. Otherwise, keep them and use completely.

**** According to Ireland’s Bord Bia, mushrooms are grown in Ireland in the following counties: Monaghan, Meath, Wexford, Mayo, Kildare, Cavan and Tipperary. Bord Bia’s website also says that mushrooms are a good source of fibre, low in fat, they contain more vegetable protein per 100g than almost any vegetable, and they are richer than most vegetable in some vitamins such as B1 and niacin. Mushrooms also contain certain important minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, iron and copper, and are low in salt.

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A few weeks ago, I participated in a Joy workshop. It was exactly what a full-time mom (or dad) needs heading into the holiday season.

The gathering started with a meet and greet cocktail hour on Friday evening and then, over two days, became a thoughtful consideration of:

  • what zaps us of joy?
  • are we choosing emotions other than joy?
  • how to connect with our own joy
  • rituals for creating and keeping joy

There was conversation, teachings, things to read, skill drills, time for journaling, laughing, crying; it was deep and messy and wonderful all at one time. Most importantly, it was a reminder of how and why we lose our joy and what it takes to find it again. Woven into the workshop was yoga, delicious food, and the chance to meet like-minded women who want to connect with themselves and each other.

 

What came up for me during the workshop was the profound loss I have felt the last eight years since my mother and grandmother passed away. My life changed instantly with their passings. My mother’s sudden death was particularly hard. She and I were not close, but we loved one another. When she died, I truly did not know what hit me. More importantly, I did not know how to grieve.

 

My grandmother’s passing was quite different. Her dying took place over many months. We were close and her slow exit from this life brought us closer. I am incredibly thankful for the time we had together and for the wisdom and guidance she shared with me in her life. With her last breath, she was teaching me something.

Two back-to-back deaths however, left me lost…and I didn’t even know it. What I realise now is that I was living in a haze colored by loss. I compare myself, pre and post their deaths, to being severely concussed. In my sorrow, I walked through life unable to feel, think, participate or do anything fully. That phrase “the lights are on but nobody is home” says it all. In a textural point of view, it felt like I was walking in a sticky web and could not get free.

I am a fighter, so to be sure, and I struggled against the darkness but it always pushed back hard.

 

Slowly, the stickiness of loss has lifted. Last year I noticed that I was finally coming back to myself. I was feeling joy again. In a moment of absolute “what the heck happened to me”, I saw a therapist who explained that it can take one to three years to fully process a loss. Two losses, one right after the other, may take twice as long or longer. And grief comes in waves…you’re fine and then you’re not…you’re fine again and then you’re not…again.

I have grieved for my beloved mother, grandmother and myself. I include myself because I have lost precious momentum and time: eight years to be exact. I forgive myself for not being able to see my way clearly.

Sadly, I acknowledge that I can’t get back those years. I can’t change what I did or didn’t do…did or did not say. I can only be aware of what happened, love myself, acknowledge my pain, and the hurt my emotional absence may have created in other people’s lives, and move forward.

Love

This past year, my intention has been “Love”…love of self, love of others, love of work, love of learning and travel and so much more. Love and time have brought me back to myself…brought me back to today. And the Joy workshop I did last weekend helped me to look at what has been holding me back from having as much joy as I had before my mother and grandmother died. That information I’ll save for another blog post!

When I woke up this morning the phrase “Today, I Begin Anew” popped into my mind. I wrote it down on a sticky note and put it on my mirror as a reminder of the new awakening I feel for my beautiful, complicated, messy life.

This is my journey. It is perfectly imperfect.

Maybe God, the Universe, the Powers that Be are molding me for something I do not yet know. Loss is part of being “molded”. And, with grace, I am open to the possibilities of the journey. So, today, I begin anew. Perhaps this post will help you in any loss you are experiencing. Today, please know that you are not alone.

~XoK

 

Irish Brown Bread Cooling on Rack

Today’s blog post is short and sweet and at the request of In an Irish Home reader Jackie Shaw. Jackie, very kindly, reminded me that I had not yet posted a recipe for Irish Multi-Seed Brown Bread. Thanks, Jackie, and my apologies for the three-year delay!

This bread is so easy to make. Pop a few ingredient into a large mixing bowl.

Stir well, and whosh it into the oven.

Bada bing, bada boom and your done. There is no rising time required.

I know what it means to feel life is too busy to make homemade bread, but I can honestly say that everyone has time to make this. For me, it was a wonderful way to spend time with my young children {they loved mixing the ingredients by hand}. Now that the kids are teenagers, making this bread has become a weekly meditative ritual.

Three slices of homemade Irish Brown BreadAs a side to homemade soup or as a quick breakfast topped with jam, sliced tomatoes, cheese or whatever you prefer, it is absolutely healthy and delicious.

~ XoK

Multi-Seed Irish Brown Bread

Makes 1 Loaf

Ingredients

200g/6oz/1-½cup self-raising flour

300g/11oz/2-¼cup extra-coarse brown flour

8g/.3oz/3 tablespoons bran

16g/.6oz/2 tablespoons wheat germ

2 heaped teaspoons baking powder

1 level teaspoon salt

106g/3.7oz/½cup, heaped, mixed seeds (sunflower, poppy, sesame, pumpkin oat groats), toasted

2 teaspoons treacle (optional)

600-900ml buttermilk

Instructions

1. Pre-heat oven to 230ºC/450ºF. Lightly oil all sides of a loaf tin, line with a sheet of parchment paper, and set aside.

2. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre.

3. Into the well, add the treacle (optional) and half the buttermilk. Stir well. Continue to add small amounts of buttermilk until you have a moist, but not sloppy, mixture.

4. Put the mixture into prepared loaf tin and bake for twenty minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 150ºC/300ºF and bake for an hour.

5. Ease bread from loaf tin (you may need a knife to do this) and peel off the parchment paper. Carefully turn the loaf over (you may need a tea towel or oven mits to do this as the bread is very hot) and tap the underside of the loaf to listen for a hollow sound. A hollow sound means the bread is fully cooked. If the loaf does not sound hollow, return it to the oven for another 10-15 minutes. Do not put it back into the loaf tin, just put it right-side up, directly on the shelf in the oven.

6. When bread is fully baked, cool on a wire rack. Slice as needed. Store in a container, in a cupboard. Will last about one week.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* My mixed seed mixture is as follows: 50g/3 tablespoons oat groats, 38g/3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, 1 10g/tablespoon poppy seeds, and 10gm/1 tablespoon sesame seed. I popped them into a dry sauté pan and lightly toast the seeds before adding them to the bread recipe above. If you are a real time-saver, you can always double or triple this mixture and store in an airtight container for future use.

** Soup recipes that go beautifully with this recipe include Roast Carrot and Cumin, Myrtle’s Mushroom, Autumn Vegetable, Irish Leak and Potato, and Pea and Mint.

*** What are Oat Groats? Following are a few links for those who want to know more than a kernel of truth! The Spruce Eats  and Food52.

 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

The world is feeling so polar these days and with our eldest daughter way over on the west coast of America on her own…it feels a little bit unsafe to this mama…though I know, in reality…if I take a deep breath…it actually isn’t.

Regardless of where home is, what anyone does for a living, or what our political leanings are, I hope you/me/we, will make more time to create or pass on a tiny bit more gentleness, patience, and love. It is, after all, up to us to how we interact with one another. If someone treats you poorly today, let me be the first to say I am sorry for the hurt. It’s tough out there…so many demands…so much negativity…everyone in a rush…shouting…honking…bustling…doing…making noise. It’s exhausting and grating on our central nervous systems and hearts.

The world is not meant to be what it feels like it is becoming…what it has been for a while now. I’m a hopeless romantic, so with Wonder Woman in mind, I am shouting out today: “ONLY LOVE CAN SAVE THE WORLD”. And, if that doesn’t work…maybe biscuits {cookies} will help.

Which brings me to today’s post for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies. These tasty little treats are perfect this time of year.

Bowl of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

The pumpkin and chocolate flavours work really well together {wouldn’t it be nice if we could say the same about American politicians ~ cheap shot, I know!}.

Drop scoop pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

Unlike many biscuits, these are cake-like and chewy. They are incredibly satisfying with a good mug of tea in the morning.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies on a baking tray

One thing to note, they do not freeze well…nor does the dough refrigerate well. So, when you make them…you have to make them all. Depending on what size spoon or dough scoop you use, the recipe yields between 3-5 dozen cookies.

Tray of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

Which is why I sent a batch of them to my daughter and her lovely new roommate at college. Here’s how I packed them up.

How to send homemade cookies in the mail

I packaged them in cling film (plastic wrap) and placed each cookie back-to-back.

Homemade card from fall printable

I tried to find an “Autumn is in the Air” printable…but this one was so adorable!

red, yellow, green autumn leaves

The autumn leaves in our garden are so beautiful this time of year.

Sending cookies in the mail

Some tissue paper, ribbon, and a few stickers and it’s ready for shipping!

You can buy American canned pumpkin in Dublin at Candy Lab in Temple Bar or  Fallon and Byrne. Sometimes, I have also seen it at Avoca in Kilmaconogue and at Cavistons in Glasthule…but this is hit and miss. I’m a Dublin girl, so I apologise for not being able to speak for the rest of the country. Happy Autumn!

~ XoK

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Biscuits

Makes 3-5 Dozen

Ingredients

½ cup/4oz vegetable oil

1 cup/8.3oz/236g pumpkin puree

1 cup/198g/7oz sugar

1 egg, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon bread soda (baking soda)

1 teaspoon milk

2 teaspoons mixed spice (pumpkin spice)

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup/142g/5oz whole wheat flour

1 cup/142g/5oz self-raising flour (all purpose flour)

2 cups/400g/14oz chocolate chips

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Spray baking sheets with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper or silpat sheets.

2. In a bowl, combine oil, pumpkin, sugar, egg, and vanilla.

3. In another bowl, stir baking soda and milk well. Add to the pumpkin mixture.

4. In a third bowl, stir mixed spice, baking powder, salt, and flour well. Add to pumpkin mixture.

5. Fold in the chocolate chips and leave batter to rest for 15 minutes.

6. Using a scoop, place batter on a baking sheet, approximately 2-inches apart, and bake for 9-12 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned.

7. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the biscuits rest for 2-3 minutes. Remove the cookies with a spatula and transfer to a wire rack to fully cool.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* These websites were particularly helpful in figuring out the best way to pack the cookies for shipping: Land-O-Lakes; Kitchn;  Sally’s Baking Addiction;

** Here is the link for the printable I used, from On Sutton Place, to make the card.

*** If you can’t find the canned pumpkin puree in Ireland, here is a recipe from Alton Brown over at the Food Network. You can watch a video of the process too.

Room to Grow

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Good morning and happy Monday! I know it’s been a little quiet around here lately. I took the last few months off to spend with my sweet family…especially my eldest daughter {photo above}, who graduated from secondary school in June and then recently left for a college on the west coast of America.

As you can imagine, the past few months have been filled with lots of emotion in our Irish home…and by that I mean way more than would normally be the case with one mother and two teenage daughters living in the same house!

With each passing day, we held on to one another a little bit tighter and squeezed as much fun out of life as we could. Here are a few snapshots of our recent memories; I’ll write about some of them in greater depth in the coming weeks.

First up, for mid-term break, we flew to Hawaii with dear friends to soak up some sunshine. This was our first trip to Kaua’i. The weather wasn’t much better than it was back in Ireland at the time, but we loved the relaxed feel of this gorgeous island.

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Then there was a sweet event at which my husband walked our daughter “down the aisle” so to speak. Oh my goodness…it was a vision of what her final “white dress” occasion might be like!

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Next up, a girls trip to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. If you haven’t visited Moab, do consider it for your bucket-list. From Ireland there is no direct flight to Salt Lake City, but don’t let that stop you. Utah has a number of state and national parks that are amazing {and if you are going that far, I suggest you check out Colorado too}. The Delicate Arch, under which we are standing, is an 18-meter, 60-foot-tall, freestanding natural arch. Hiking out to this point at sunset was just one of the highlights of this quick girls trip.

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Then there was a best-friend graduation trip to Rome. How cute are these two? They’ve been friends for twelve years!

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And the Debs…!

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And, finally, before we knew it…it was time to say goodbye.

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Letting go of this sweet girl wasn’t incredibly hard…it was just incredible AND hard. She was ready for her next adventure and we are happy she has more room to grow.

Through the tears and the hugs and the laughter and the heart-ache, we’ve had an amazing couple of months. Now each of us is adjusting to our “new normal”.

I’ll end today’s post with some wisdom passed along from both my grandmother and my mother-in-law. Their advice has served me well recently. Maybe they will be helpful to you too either now or some day. From Mama I learned, “a mother’s job is to let her children go”. Spoken like a true Irish mammy. From Gma El, I learned, “You GO Girl!

~ XoK

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* We love Utah as a destination: it’s clean, safe, and full of outdoor activities. Click here to go to the Visit Utah website.

** Moab, Utah is home to two national parks: Arches and Canyonlands. Click here to jump to Visit Moab’s official website

*** Go Hawaii’s official website was really helpful to us as we planned our holiday.

**** Did you see the gorgeous meringue cake I baked for my youngest daughter’s birthday party? You can learn to make it here.

***** And last, but not least, if you’re considering a holiday to Rome, check out Rome’s official website here.

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